Don Cameron is the film director who helped co-create, design and curate the rooms at Hotel Hotel (alongside Nectar of Molonglo Group and Ken of Darlinghurst). Yes film director. This background may not be the obvious choice…The guy that directed Blur’s ‘Music is My Radar’, Garbage’s ‘Androgyny’ (ouah love that one) and the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Minimal’ music videos…but to us it makes total sense.
In a film Don is always looking at how images convey an emotion; which is exactly the same as for a hotel, the only difference being that it has to last. Don sees rooms as a set with props that are there to engage the guest to create their own narrative of rest and introspection. He sees the items that make up the interiors as unique characters that you interact with and that have a past; many of the pieces are vintage pieces that have been reupholstered and at times repurposed. The chairs are mostly 20th century Australian pieces that have been sitting in Ken’s warehouse for the past 30 years, waiting for their cameo appearance. The in-room fittings (the bed heads, banquettes, wardrobe…) have been rebirthed from 200 year old oak reclaimed from granaries in the Loire Valley in France that made their way to Australia at the beginning of the 1900s.
Staging for a meaningful experience is evident in Don’s description of a room, ”When you open the door you never see a work desk but instead you see a chair or piece of art presented in a situation of repose”. The process has been to strip back all the items usually found in a hotel room and replace them with unexpected items not usually put together.
Just as important as what has been placed in the rooms is what hasn’t been placed there. For example, rather than having desks in all of the rooms, the boys opted for a console in some. Arranged as a challenge to not come back to your room and work.
Don’s set inspiration began with Nectar’s idea of an Australian shack and a response to Australia’s dry bush capital. It was interpreted as a textural experience that was achieved by using materials like unstained woods, clay rendered walls, natural fibre wallpapers, leather, mild steel, brass, linens and Berber weave carpets; as well as playing with light. The eternal mantra for this project was “no veneers” and it extends to the building itself. Wherever possible the process of construction and the architecture has been acknowledged.
To get the set just right they redesign the pieces that didn’t make them happy like taps, towel rails and brass tables. The thinking around these designs were again a study in feeling. For example, the unscreened wardrobes are designed in such a way as to encourage guests to unpack their bags and hang up their clothes so that it feels more like you are moving in, not just staying over.
Don’s favourite rooms are number 133 “for the journey down its long corridor, meeting up with a hung boucherouite rug, not knowing where the path leads. Then the right angle where you are presented with a bed and off it a sitting area. As you approach the window you get a view of the central atrium, with its forest of salvaged Dicksonia Antarctica tree ferns, that offers you an intimate look across the space of the internal hotel. Once there you notice that there is another door that leads into the bathroom which opens into a huge space with bath, twin head shower and a five metre benchtop. That for me is a beautiful room in terms of the surprising unfolding narrative that you get physically moving through the space.”
“The other room I really enjoy is 211. You are right on the nose cone of the building and you feel like you are floating above the view. As you walk in there is a dressing area with an artwork hanging on the wall. You can either go right into the bathroom that has structural columns inside the space or you go through to the bedroom which is a trapezoidal shape and again you have structural columns in the room. I like that in 211 you have a sense of structure in the building. This exposed structure playing against a beautifully restored wooden chair. These are the narratives and dialogues we wanted to create.”
The exhibition was born from the pages of, and launches, a new book of the same name by the trio, published by Murdoch Books. It brings together contemporary design with well- worn objects to explore the established aesthetic of wabi-sabi from a new standpoint where craftspeople, designers and artists are combining handmade processes with new technologies for making.
Don’s photography and collected objects will be exhibited alongside works by Jacqui Fink, Harriet Goodall, Nicholas Jones, John Wardle and many more.
Interior of Hotel Hotel room by Sharyn Chairns for 'Perfect Imperfect'
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Writer, editor and curator Karen McCartney has definitely been on your coffee table at some point in your life. The history of art and English graduate, who now lives in a Bruce Rickard house in northern Sydney’s Clontarf, first wrote for the British mag ‘Art Monthly’ and the splendid ‘The World of Interiors‘ before going on to be the founding editor of ‘Inside Out‘ in 2000. Other notches on her belt include being a guest curator for Sydney Living Museums, and the driving force behind five very heavy books including the two widely read ‘Iconic Australian Houses‘.
‘Perfect Imperfect‘, the latest book Karen has worked on with Sharyn Cairns and Glen Proebstel shows how great decay, imperfection, darkness, nature and ugliness are. Across its 300 or so pages, they have chosen people and projects from all over the world (Hotel Hotel, and our own Nectar Efkarpidis and Don Cameron included) that celebrate craft, process and old stuff in a radical forward-thinking way.
On a recent Sydney morning Karen talked to us more about the book, which will be launched along with an accompanying exhibition at Hotel Hotel’s Nishi Gallery at the end of the month. Karen ordered coffee and toast and was incredibly smart.
The book ‘Perfect Imperfect’ relies entirely on people and their places. What was your process for finding these stories?
Well Glen is in New York and Sharyn is in Melbourne and travels a lot so the old editor in me came out and said: “We all need a list of words and phrases that we can have in our head so that if we find things, they don’t have to tick all the boxes, but they need to have the essence of what we’re talking about.”
So I came up with the list of things to think about and then I sort of began to identify the makers, or spaces or people we wanted to include. And actually all of the people we wanted to include, all but a couple, we managed to get into the book. So it was a really great process.
At first we (Glen, Karen and Sharyn) were drawn to a visual expression of these people’s aesthetic but as I began to interview them and go and visit their places they almost over delivered back to me. Somebody would say, “I like to get so absorbed in my work that accidents can happen and I can fold them in.” So this whole idea of imperfection, failure and process became a big thing. I think it was one of the ceramicists (in the book) who said, “You’re committing your work to fire. Of course you’ve got to be relaxed with what the outcome is.”
Boom! Karen says artist Adam Železný’s use of explosives and clay is emblematic of the idea of imperfection and process. Adam’s work is photographed in 'Perfect Imperfect'.
You’ve had a long career in design books and magazines. Why ‘Perfect Imperfect’ now? Could you have done it 10 years ago?
It’s funny, I think some things come to a point where they are the sum of your experience. I am particularly proud of this book and how we all worked together to produce it.
You reach a stage where you’re not second guessing. Books are funny. Other areas of your working life you can kind of compromise but with books, because you feel so passionate about them, you go: “No, it has to be this way.”
You talk about decay in the book. British artist Grayson Perry has talked about the aesthetic of decay being a particular taste of the upper class. What do you think about that?
Well when you think of the traditional English upper class they have those corduroy jackets with patches on the arms. It’s that sort of thing where your value isn’t defined by having the latest thing. Your value is almost a given because you’ve had generations of inherited wealth. It’s a confidence in a way that comes from the knowledge that nobody is going to think you’re poor. So their (the upper class’s) value system, because they’re confident, is different.
One thing I got really interested in was this idea of the mend and why we don’t mend things. I’ve got all these sweaters that have been eaten by moths and I was thinking that maybe I should mend them with bright blue thread and celebrate the mend rather than be ashamed of it.
What do you hope people will get from the book?
I think it offers a philosophy that extends beyond design. It’s about letting go, and letting things come to you. You know, Nectar said a good thing about mess to me; he said mess allows people something to hook onto. And I think of perfection in people; perfect people, you’re just not that drawn to them. Something that’s less controlled, whether it’s a person or object, it allows you to have a connection.
So for me, being exposed to all these different kinds of philosophies and visual notions of what is beautiful has shifted what appeals to me. It’s opened my eyes to appreciating different things and appreciating what is beautiful and the value of things and so forth and I hope it does the same for other people.
You started Inside Out magazine many years ago. You’ve just started a new business called ‘e’dited‘. How does it feel starting something new again?
It’s so funny, that thing of having been an editor, and then I took these other roles at News Corp where I was Editorial Director and then I got this really grand title of Lifestyle Director across the whole newspaper and magazine group. And dealing at that management level I sort of learnt then that I had a yearning to do something more creative. Being an editor is fun, it’s a good job, but… when I started doing my own projects I realised that I really enjoyed that feeling of making things happen. I don’t want to be in a “job” again.
The ‘Perfect Imperfect’ book and exhibition will launch at Nishi Gallery on Wednesday April 27 at 6PM and run until Monday May 8. For the show, Karen, Sharyn, Glen and Hotel Hotel have pulled together perfectly imperfect objects from around the world including sculptures from Julian Watts and Nectar Efkarpidis, photography from Don Cameron and ceramics by Alana Wilson.
Martino Gamper‘s ‘100 Chairs in 100 Days’ exhibition at RMIT Design Hub in Melbourne is finishing soon. You should go and see it while you can. We went as soon as it opened. We were excited. We held a dinner for Gamper with Design Hub on their roof. We invited new and old friends. Monster kitchen and bar cooked. Cecilia Fox did the flowers. Valerie Restarick lent us some plates. Nur Shkembi and Jad Choucair read us poetry. It was excellent.
The curator of Design Hub, Fleur Watson, interviewed Martino Gamper and together they reflected on the impact of ‘100 Chairs in 100 Days’ on Martino’s expanding practice.
‘100 Chairs in 100 Days’ is a long-term project — initially launched in 2007. Now nearly ten years on, what do you think you have learnt from the project and how has it continued to impact upon your ongoing practice?
Looking back, I can see that the project has taught me that research is a very important part of a practice. The project was not commissioned in any formal way and there was no direct reason or client involved. It was driven by a very simple idea that was self-initiated and by instinct. The project highlighted the importance of carving out the time and space to continue to research.
By focusing on a singular element — a chair — and spending focused time on the project — 100 days — I learnt so much. Now, almost ten years later, these are ideas that my practice still draws upon — ergonomics, materials, mixing styles, improvisation — so the impact is still quite big.
The impact of this project was also external — it put me on the design map and communicated to the outside world a process and approach to design that was something quite different than what was being shown in design shows and magazines at the time.
In the book that accompanies the exhibition — ‘100 Chairs in 100 Days and its 100 Ways’ — there’s a short essay by Deyan Sudjic that describes the chair as having taken on an authority of its own, as distinct from the people who sit in it. There are seats of power, there are chairpersons, there are tenured chairs, hot seats and so on. Was choosing the chair as a typology a deliberate move, or could it have been another singular object?
Yes it was deliberate. A chair is an object in our everyday lives. It holds our weight and responds to our bodies. Over time, it can become symbolic of who we are — almost as a reflection of ourselves, our style, age and preferences. Chairs reveal our intentions and anticipate what is going to happen in the space through the way we arrange and use them as functional props for our behaviour. Chairs support the functions of the everyday — we read, watch, eat, sleep in them. Yet you can also find chairs discarded on the street even when they are not useless. When I looked around, I realised chairs were the most prominent thrown away objects. As consumers, we buy, use and then — when we find something we like better — we release them for a new thing. Chairs seem to go through this evolution very quickly. What you find on the street speaks to the ideas that society has rejected — it reveals something about our culture and the direction that we are taking as a community. Chairs are a pretty good example of us, wherever we live in the world — they leave a trace, they have a layout, they leave a good picture about what has happened.
The notion of ‘making’ is very much part of your process but equally the process of unmaking — taking a piece apart and understanding the way it has been considered and composed by understanding its scars. How important is this process of ‘unmaking’ to your practice?
Yes, I think the unmaking is an important part of the process. Firstly, finding a chair on the street and choosing whether or not you pick it up. That is where my imagination starts… what is the potential for this object I have found? Then in the studio, when I’ve brought all these chairs into the space, I deconstruct them, discovering and understanding who designed the object, how well it was designed, how it was constructed, what the material is and so on.
You also discover how people fix things over the years by adding screws or string or other materials to find ways of modifying the object. By taking away the layers you can see the construction of the chair underneath. So much of the design is in the underbelly of a chair — how the connections and fixings are made in a very particular way. In some cases it is thinking about how the workers in a factory would have put the components together and how elaborate that process was — it’s studying the morphology of the chair.
In the unmaking or taking apart, I also find a way to deal with parts rather than the whole chair, which, in turn, makes a more interesting starting point. It is much easier for me to imagine elements rather than dealing with a single object of a whole chair.
In such instances I cut the chairs. For example with the Jasper Morrison ‘Air Chair’, I cut through the cross-section of the chair to see what was inside. It’s made of a plastic — polypropylene — through a gas-injected process. What’s interesting to understand is what you don’t see — the inside — what’s created through this process. And then, compare that to the Ikea copy of the Morrison chair. What are the differences in process and result? So, yes, you can see that the process of taking the chairs apart is as important as the start of the process of making the new chair — it creates a clean slate, or a tabula rasa.
‘Making’ in a contemporary context is now something often associated with the ‘democracy’ prescribed to new technologies — 3D printers, co-design and ‘maker spaces’ etc. What relationship — if any — do you feel your work has within this context?
I think every new process that becomes more readily available creates an opportunity for a new perspective on design and making. However, I do think it is important that the idea is not generated just for the sake of using modern technologies.
For example, twenty years ago when desktop publishing software first became available, everyone was suddenly a graphic designer. From the first moment of working with Photoshop everyone was using all the filters. It was just about playing with the effects rather than really investigating what Photoshop could actually do to support design ideas. I think we can see some of the same kind of issues in the early days of 3D printing. But the interesting thing is when we can really use the tool in combination with other processes and contexts.
For me new technology becomes very interesting when combined with conventional technologies. Today when we went to the Design Hub workshop and saw the work being made using a robot and a bandsaw, I was thinking: “Why is the bandsaw there?” Because, by itself, the bandsaw is pretty stupid – it does one thing very well; a bit like Photoshop in a way. And, to a degree, the same can be true of the robot. When it becomes a tool combined with other tools and even within a matrix of tools, that’s when it becomes exciting. When you mix the digital with the handmade, they work together and yet question each other so you can really learn from the process.
A key aspect of the ‘100 Chairs’ project is that you make a new 100th chair (within the constraint of a single day) for every iteration of the exhibition, and on location in that particular city as the show travels. How might the 100th chair you produced in Marugame, Japan be different than the one you might make in Melbourne, Australia for example? How do you draw these cultural differences out in the chairs through the composition and materials?
When I meet the chairs again within a new city and context, I feel a bit like the ‘father figure’ of the chairs in a way. When they go back into their crates and move on I kind of forget about them and then when they emerge again, I really look at them and reconnect. Every time is different.
Seeing the architecture of each city and the context that the chairs will be displayed within has an affect on the making of the 100th chair. The space the chairs will occupy — the lighting, textures, the floor — all influence the process of making. Each of the 100th chairs recalls a particular place — the source of the materials, taking things apart, putting them together, placing them in the context of the other chairs. Each chair is a synthesis of the travelling, the making and the conversations that I had in that place.
In a recent article for ‘Mono. Kultur‘ you describe the importance of design curation as being contextual rather than simply a “lifestyle presentation within the structure of marketing.” How do you place design in a more politically and culturally engaged context?
For me, the idea of showing one of my chairs or tables on a pedestal in a museum absolutely gives me goosebumps — I think this is the worst way of showing design. Whenever I am thinking about an exhibition I try to contextualise the work within life so the furniture is never shown in a way that looks like a showroom — a graveyard. Chairs, particularly, are made for use within a context. A lot of the time you see furniture de-contextualised and photographed within a white background with no people etc. There is no story; it’s a one-liner. Yet, like most objects in the world, chairs are part of a story and connected to a social, political context — furniture effects how people live, what happens in our houses, our public spaces, what we put on our table etc.
One thing that I always find interesting with ‘100 Chairs’ is that people always want to buy the chairs as the show travels. In fact, they are now owned by a gallery so they stay as a collection but I always find it really interesting that people are so keen to buy them even though they are made of rubbish. So by changing things by just five degrees and showing the objects in a new light, it can really capture people’s imagination.
Your exhibition ‘Martino Gamper: design is a state of mind’ at the Serpentine Sackler (2014) seemed to work on two levels — firstly, as a very personalised view into the designers minds via the objects that inspired them and secondly, through a historical lens, reminding us that design ideas sit within the context of history rather than fashion or style. Was this a deliberate intent?
Not intentionally. It evolved in this way. I was looking for a narrative or experience that meant that someone could go to the exhibition and just look at one small element of it — one shelf or five objects — so that small element of interest would simply be enough. Alternatively, another person might go to the exhibition and study all of the shelving and look at each object within the entire exhibition. I wanted multiple ways to see and experience the exhibition.
I also wanted to develop the exhibition through a particular object — in this case the shelves — and in the context of design history but that became less important as the concept evolved. I came up with the idea that I would source objects from the private collections of other designers and artists — many of them I knew — and, in this way, I was relying on their curiosity to reveal how objects and collections inspire their work and process.
It was very unconventional but I thought that both elements really helped each other to communicate the ideas — the shelves and objects were kind of talking to each other in a way. This is what great design is — when many disparate objects are put together in the context of one another to tell us something about our place in the world; design is not something that is only ‘right now’ or sourced from a catalogue.
I visited your studio in London and it is clear that you have a particularly strong extended community that exists around you, including your wife artist Francis Upritchard, a young designer in your studio Gemma Holt (and by extension her partner Max Lamb) and your long standing collaboration with graphic designers Åbäke. It seems the very antithesis of the celebrity culture that can surround design. How do you see this extended community as contributing to your work and process?
I have always felt the interest in collaborating with others. At university in Vienna, we formed a student group called USP so that we could break away from college and do our own thing while still being a collective. So looking back I think I have always needed the space outside of an institution to develop my own work, but I also needed people to develop ideas collaboratively — I quickly realised that by sharing ideas I got a lot further and learned much more.
When I was at the Royal College of Art, London (RCA), Ron Arad was leading the design products course and he always made sure the young designers were sharing a very small, intimate space. It created a very intense environment and we were very competitive with each other but we also shared and helped each other, so it was a healthy competition. I think that experience really taught me how to work openly with other people. It was very hands on and process driven and we were not scared to try all sorts of methods and not be too precious with ideas. ‘100 Chairs’ is an extension of this thinking — it is the same brief one hundred times over so after a few days you lose any preciousness about succeeding; you stop worrying about whether the chair looks good.
Later when I went back to the RCA to teach, this thinking really meant that I saw young designers like Gemma and Max as part of the community and working with them gives you a new perspective. I guess I wanted to make a little family in London — we all kind of needed each other, as London at the time was quite tough for a designer to survive. Maybe it is an Italian thing too.
Our intent at Design Hub is very centred around the notion of exchanging ideas — we like to take risks, experiment and ‘perform’ the process of developing design ideas with our audience. The ‘Post Forma’ workshop that you will lead here at Design Hub directly reflects this intent as a kind of ‘rapid response’ to the touring component of the project. What are your aspirations for the workshop?
Teaching is never about influencing people in terms of form. I have never believed in telling people what to design. It is more about interfering at the right moment, having a conversation and giving people the opportunity to discuss what they are doing. When you are designing you are in a forest and often you simply can’t see the wood for the trees. Sometimes teaching is simply showing students what is around them — contextualising the work.
I see my role as taking away any idea of being too precious — as designers we don’t need to be worried about finding or coming up with ideas, as there are plenty of places around us to absorb them. I think this generation really struggles with the influx of information. Of course, each new generation struggles but the sea of imagery and information about work all over the world via the websites, blogs, social media etc. seems to really put a lot of pressure on young designers.
I think that when you are trying to work you have to create a platform, your own territory and a space for your own practice and research to operate so you can look at it more clearly. Because if you always look to what’s happening outside – you are too critical or, possibly not critical enough, depending on how you interpret the endless supply of images.
‘The Corners Project’ (1999) at the RCA was my way of creating space — taking a space that is usually ignored — the corner — and finding something interesting to think about. Corners can be places to escape into or they can be isolating — how might you start to respond to this as a designer? This is always how I work as a designer and a teacher — I make a mental and physical space to work within.
100 Chairs in 100 Days: Martino Gamper RMIT Design Hub Closes 9 April Collection loaned by Nina Yashar – Nilufar Gallery Exhibition Graphic Design: Åbäke Curated for RMIT Design Hub by Fleur Watson Photos by Tobias Titz and Will Neill of U-P
Chris and Barrie Barton are the brothers from Right Angle Studio – a little studio whose motto is thoughts, words, deeds.
What kind of studio? It’s difficult to describe what they do in general; it always comes out (inaccurately) as a Mad Men montage. Suffice to say they are story telling animals, drawing on their reading, thinking and access to networks about all kinds of interesting things (here is just a sample of the little nuggets referenced in our conversation: a room for London, how to buy happiness, the Whole Earth project…)
The best way to describe what they do is that they are basically Hotel Hotel’s dating service/relationship counsellors. They have introduced us to some of the lovely creatives we have worked with over the past few years and have helped us to find shared meaning together.
This is a full service agency, they light the candles and order the flowers (if you’re into that sort of thing). They also provide the conversational cues that can mean the difference between the encounter developing into either an alleyway shag or a long lasting love affair. Relationships are all about communication. The need for allowing room for the idiosyncrasies that make humans awesome but also acknowledging that, without some boundaries, projects/relationships can quickly turn into that scene from Lord of the Flies.
So the main task that Right Angle decided to take on for Hotel Hotel was to write, distil, edit and after much labour, deliver some foundations from which to work from.
If Hotel Hotel were a cult this would be the doctrine. The chapters cover the following topics – people, the sensorial, provenance, humour, the importance of makers, diversity, participation, open source, curation, and disruption.
Here are two favourite entries.
Relish each contradictory impulse within yourself, and every clash you encounter with another – for these are moments of productivity and creation.032C
Disruption (and her sister, Confrontation) has negative connotations, but it is a rich source of new ideas and better practices. By being open to criticism and willing to collaborate, we are capable of creating expressions that are far greater than the ones we imagine by ourselves.
The process of building Hotel Hotel has involved the constant intervention of new people, ideas and processes. It has forced people to work together rather than alone, and as we move beyond building to hosting guests and creating content, these disruptive tendencies will continue to shape the project.
When we experience disruption, what we are really witnessing is the formation of an intersection. Whether this reveals one road or many is not as important as the fact that it allows us and our guests to travel in an unexpected direction. Done well, disruption should result in engagement and progress.
One of the core values that define any great city is diversity. Great cities draw their energy from the friction between competing ideas, and through the contrast between people, places and activities.
In some sense, the Nishi building can be viewed as a city within a city. It is a pluralistic space combining different types of people and activities. This mix is essential to the character of the project and the challenge it presents to monoculture.
As a starting point, diversity must be met with tolerance. But, in order to realise the benefits of cultural cross-pollination, we must go beyond just tolerance and be prepared to truly dance with our differences.
George Raftopoulos’ latest works play with the notion of the migrant identity or absence thereof. His works are odd things to look at and he knows it. Being an oddity is all part of the migrant experience and for that matter the human one. These paintings are conversations with the past. They don’t tell stories as much as they reacquaint us with people who should never be forgotten. If you enjoy a good landscape then this probably isn’t for you. But then again, maybe it is.
Mostly, when contemporary art looks at a personal story of migration, we’re talking about dodgy photographs and things somebody found in their grandfather’s attic. For me, looking at George’s paintings, it’s all about ghosts on the canvas.
This is a series based around post-war Greek immigration to Australia. George develops these narratives of migration into more than a set of Kodachrome memories.
Post World War Two migration from Greece has become part of our nation’s folklore. This gives almost everything associated with it a mythical quality. From milk bars to fruit shops it’s easy to live in a halcyon era. But there was always more to being Greek in Australia than “Con the Fruiterer’. What is lost in the legend is the often-harsh reality of being a stranger in a strange land.
These works don’t rehash the bare bones of history, but rather explores a parallel emotional story of the lives involved. A key trait throughout the works is George’s own ambition to see Greek immigration to Australia as more than a textbook event. He wants us to remember that the lives often observed through two lines in a government publication or stereotypes in a comedy sketch are those of real people. George’s paintings bring these experiences of the past back into hard currency. They are ghosts of the Charles Dickens kind. Juxtaposed with Greece’s own current crisis of refugees, the series reminds us of the shifting way we see migrants both past and present. George’s art reminds us that all humans are migrants. Travelling between cultures has never been a case of just reaching point B. Whether it be sixty years ago, a million years past or last week, it’s not about the migrant but who they are seen to be that matters.
Via a process of primitively printed smudges on each canvas, George loosens the identity from individual portraits. While we know that these images are based on Greek immigrants, their immediate identification is lost. They could be anyone. Freed of this ethnic bias, we are left with who we are. As a collective group, they look like a gallery of freaks. As individual images you respond to the traits you see in yourself. These are light and dark mirrors, both complimenting and condemning the viewer.
I’m a Gen X, one of the last eras in which the term “wog” was still used as part of everyday speech. Few of us cringed at the term back then, although I do now. But just because something becomes politically incorrect, doesn’t necessarily mean that society has changed or that the wounds have healed.
The works ‘Prophet’ and ‘Dreamer’ reflect this sense of dystopia. ‘Prophet’ carves a face out of black and white toning. Black to the left, white to the right and grey down the middle. Today, as hordes of Syrian refugees flood Greece, it is a reminder that migrants are seen in a variety of emotive ways, both in hindsight and at the time of their arrival. The work doesn’t make a judgment, the audience does. George overlays the image with a lace like motif, it mimics some kind of medieval costume drama. There is a sense of royalty. Perhaps, as George likes to suggest we are all “emperors” with our new clothes. The way we see fresh arrivals is filtered by our own aspirations for the world. The lace effect across the prophet’s face resembles the fabric you might find at the altar of a local church or a tablecloth from the Grecian cafe of your mind. The identity of the migrant is as much what we project as who they really are.
‘Dreamer’ is a humorous brain piece. The strong fleshy pink colour is at odds with the more austere greys and blues of its brother, the ‘Prophet’. Whilst ‘Prophet’ suggests a John the Baptist style ire, preaching outward to us sinners, in ‘Dreamer’ the audience is literally looking inside the mind of a migrant. As George’s frantic lines in the cranium suggest it is a head filled with both ideas and emotion. An ear pointing in one direction as the face is moving in another, a life in a hurry to start. There is a need for the migrant to keep travelling, whether to arrive at a destination quicker or to avoid being run out of town.
George Raftopoulos will be exhibiting new works at the Nishi Gallery in May.
Before I get dressed I’m naked. I spend some time thinking about how I feel, who I’m seeing and what it’s like outside. Then I get dressed.
When I finally have to wash my clothes I use the care label, but not always.
Nectar Efkarpidis to Bob Earl. Image of Hotel Hotel Original room shot by Ross Honeysett.